The online threat
Siobhain Crosbie branded s*x-addiction counsellor Caroline Ley a ‘monkey’, a ‘cow’ and a ‘devil’ in online posts, threatened to break her legs – complete with a ‘lol’ – and whipped up hatred against her after they fell out over business matters.
Ms Crosbie, who charges up to £200 a session for help with issues including ‘s*xual dysfunction’ and ‘transgender difficulties,’ had claimed former friend Ms Ley stole her clients after they fell out in 2011.
Ms Ley, 51, studied under Ms Crosbie and worked for a time from her therapy practice, APS Psychotherapy and Counselling, in South Woodford, east London, before leaving to set up her own practice nearby.
Ms Crosbie, 55, claimed that subsequently her own business mysteriously nosedived and it was not until 2016 that she discovered Google enquires for her counselling service were being diverted to Ms Ley’s business.
How she poached her clients
She claimed Ms Ley, a ‘s*x addiction’ specialist who charges £100 for an individual 50-minute session, had deliberately interfered with online search tools and profiles to poach her clients.
But she then went on to ‘whip up hatred’ against Ms Ley by posting the allegations on a Facebook group, threatening her with violence – followed by a ‘lol’ – and branding her a ‘monkey,’ a ‘cow’ and a ‘devil’.
At the High Court, Ms Crosbie sued Ms Ley for £1,422,418.80, plus interest of £456,109, alleging ‘cyber fraud’ and insisting she had ‘passed off’ her business as her former mentor’s.
Details about the bully
But Mr Justice Julian Knowles this week dismissed her claim, while allowing Ms Ley’s counterclaim for defamation and harassment in relation to the Facebook group, ordering Ms Crosbie to pay £75,000 in damages.
Describing the bullying as ‘vicious and frightening,’ he rejected Ms Crosbie’s argument that the online threats and jibes were ‘banter’ and also hit her with an injunction, banning her from publishing further allegations.
At the trial in March, Gervase De Wilde, for Ms Ley, had told the court that the two women became friends and later colleagues after meeting on holiday in 2005.
Ms Crosbie was an established therapist and Ms Ley subsequently undertook a degree in psychology and a placement with Ms Crosbie as part of her training before renting a counselling space from her in 2010 and 2011 as she established her own practice, he said.
But the two women ‘parted ways professionally and personally at the end of 2011,’ he said, with Ms Ley going on to set up her own business nearby in Buckhurst Hill.
Ms Crosbie told the judge from the witness box that it was shortly after this that she noticed her business beginning to flatline.
Her barrister, Janaka Siriwardena, said: ‘At some point in March 2016, she discovered that if you clicked on to the phone number on her web listing, this connected to a phone number controlled by Ms Ley.
‘Also, clicking on the directions icon led a web visitor to directions to Ms Ley’s (business) address.
‘In March 2016, Ms Crosbie complained to Ms Ley that she had deliberately directed potential visitors to her own business and, as a result, that Ms Crosbie had suffered a loss.
‘Ms Crosbie also discovered that a listing for her business on psychotherapy.co.uk coincidentally again led to Ms Ley’s business. Ms Crosbie did not consider this to be coincidental.’
In reply, Ms Ley’s barrister told the judge: ‘At some point in March 2016, Ms Crosbie discovered a listing…apparently displaying the address of her business, Ms Ley’s phone number and Ms Crosbie’s website.’